How I got started with 3D Printing
About a month ago I was talking with a friend over Zoom and somehow 3D printing came up. I remembered being interested in 3d printing years ago but at the time the technology was so new that it was astronomically expensive. This got me thinking that it shouldn’t be too expensive today and so I did a little research.
Choosing a printer
There are actually a lot of 3d printers to choose from that range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. Since this would be my first time doing 3d printers I didn’t really know what to get but I knew I wanted a budget, entry-level printer that would be reliable. I didn’t want a DIY kit nor the ultra professional but something in-between that would work out of the box with little setup but be dependable and not break after the first time. After doing some online research it I found out that you can buy an entry-level 3d printer for just $300 on amazon.
The Creality Ender 3 came out in 2018 so it’s a few years old. This was actually important to me because I wanted something that was tried and tested. Since it’s inception it has been surpassed in ability by newer models but it still remains the best bang for your buck at the entry level and there is a large community of active users. Being older meant that it had a solid track record for reliability and ease of use.
Along with the 3d printer I ordered some PLA filament, the plastic material used to print with. There are a few different materials but PLA is the most common and the easiest to start with. I chose a roll of white and grey because those would be neutral colours.
Setting up the printer
Setting up the 3d printer was like putting together ikea furniture — not really that difficult but slow because you want to do it right. There were instructions but I followed a youtube video which was a step by step guide to putting it together; it wasn’t hard and only took a few hours.
What to Print
There are plenty of youtube videos on what you can print. I decided to make a some of the recommended upgrades to the printer, along with a few fun things. Here’s a list of the first 5 things I printed and the links to download them:
- Calibration Test cube: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1278865
- Filament Guide arm: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2917932
- Filament Guide: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2894097
- Display Ribbon Cable Clip: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2880021
- Simple Eiffel Tower: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1474795
What is it good for?
Now that I’ve had the printer for a while I’ve found that I really enjoy making things. I’ve used it for quickly conceptualizing some architectural elements as well as for making things random things like a tripod and mini camera holder. Sure I could have bought a tripod and camera holder but it would have cost $20 on amazon. Instead, I spent an afternoon designing and printing it for just $1.
Should you get into 3d printing?
If you like to make things or need to test ideas on a small scale then 3d printing is a good investment. The upfront cost is just a few hundred dollars and while paying ~$30 for a roll of filament sounds like a lot, the reality is that it costs just 10 cents per meter so anything you print on a beginner sized 3d printer is just going to be a few dollars.
There are thousands of designs online that you can download and print right away. These can be useful things for around the house like shelves and stands or just fun like a miniature version of the wonders of the world.
3d printing was a lot easier than I expected and has been a lot of fun. In the two months I’ve owned the printer I’ve made almost 50 prints. It’s easy to get going and easy to use. So the question is, what to make next?